In a press release issued last Friday, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) made known their plans to coordinate the distribution of federal broadband deployment funds. Under the two-year interagency agreement, the executive organizations will work together by sharing funding and broadband distribution data.
The arrangement comes pursuant to the Broadband Interagency Coordination Act, enacted as part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021. With this guidance, the agencies’ respective leaders announced the collaboration, specifically concerning new funds from the FCC’s high-cost programs that support broadband development in rural areas, the USDA’s Rural Utilities Services grant and loan programs, and programs overseen by NTIA.
The press release explains that as part of the plan, the partner agencies will “share information about existing or planned projects that receive funding from the previously mentioned federal funding sources.” The FCC, USDA, and NTIA will also be able to request information from one another identifying entities providing broadband service in a specified geographic area, the levels and geographic scope of service, and each entity that has or will receive funds from one or more of the aforementioned programs. In addition, the agreement obligates the agencies to contemplate basing the distribution of funds on “standardized broadband coverage data.”
FCC Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel thanked her USDA and NTIA counterparts and commended the rollout of the agreement in a statement. “The last fifteen months demonstrated like never before that broadband is no longer a luxury, but a necessity. Congress rightfully funded broadband deployment at levels we’ve seldom seen in recent years in response to the pandemic,” she said. “In order to be good stewards of funds supporting these projects, I’m proud to announce with my colleagues that the FCC, NTIA, and USDA will strengthen our coordination to ensure that we make the most effective use of these new funds.”